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Together as partners

Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Working together as partners is the central pillar that underpins all work Red Cross undertakes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

Rachael Schmerl, Red Cross Manager - Aboriginal Community Development Programs and Lavene Ngatokorua, former Chair and current Vice Chair of Davenport Community Council. Red Cross and Davenport Council have been working together for three years to improve the social and health outcomes of the Davenport community in South Australia. Australian Red Cross/Stuart Harris.

Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities emphasises ‘place-based’ approaches where the whole of community is considered in the planning, delivery and evaluation of our work. One example is in the Western Australian Goldfields region, where integrated programs are guided by the needs of the community. These are delivered through local staff working in partnership with the community and other agencies in reducing homelessness, increasing community safety, supporting people with mental illness and assisting young people to learn life skills, effectively reducing recidivism rates in the juvenile justice system.

In November 2012, Red Cross endorsed our first Reconciliation Action Plan to continue respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and play our part alongside like-minded individuals and organisations in achieving reconciliation within Australia.

To help guide our work, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel was established to create a comprehensive evidence base from which policies, programs and services can be developed. The Advisory Panel comprises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff from around Australia. To further support its role, the second Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff forum took place, bringing together more than 90 staff.

Cementing our commitment

As part of our commitment to the communities in the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, Red Cross has appointed a resident Regional Manager and made a financial commitment to build an office in the Wurrumiyanga community, a base for 16 of our 21 local Tiwi staff. This team works across a range of community capacity-building programs, which are being determined and driven by the local community.

Penny Williams and Dianne Stokes are members of the RespectED local advisory group in the Northern Territory. They say that the success of the program, which is helping keep children and families safe from violence, abuse and harassment, is that it is community-led and driven. Australian Red Cross/EJ Garrett.

Award-winning partnerships

The Red Cross Northern Territory Communities for Children team was awarded the Community Development Award at the Australian Evaluation Society Australasian Conference held in Adelaide on 29 August 2012.  The award recognises the participatory evaluation approach undertaken with the communities of Tiwi island and Palmerston. The evaluation model is based on a participant-led approach, involving work with the local community to employ, up-skill and support local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as evaluators.

Strengthening communities

The save-a-mate Our Way (SAM Our Way) program supports young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities to develop their own strategies to prevent and reduce the harm associated with alcohol and drug use – such as depression, anxiety and violence.

An independent evaluation by Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit at the University of New South Wales found that program activities are highly relevant to local communities. In particular, the focus on early intervention, prevention and community education helps develop community capacity to meet the needs of their young people.